The Palestine Media Center reports that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mubarak of Egypt met today in Sharm el Sheik and jointly called on Hamas to accept the 2002 Arab League peace initiative:
“Egypt and Saudi Arabia call on Hamas to recognize the Beirut Arab initiative,” Egyptian presidential spokesman Soliman Awad told reporters after the meeting between the two leaders…
There is an urgent need now for all the heads of the Palestinian factions to be aware of the higher interests of the Palestinian people and their desire for an independent state,” he said.
The plan called for Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders in return for full Arab recognition of Israel. The recent peace plan written by Palestinian prisoners is modeled on the Arab League plan. Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Hamas accept the latter plan as the basis for a Palestinian strategy for peace. It it doesn’t, Abbas has promised a national referendum on the issue. Current Palestinian polls show that 81% would vote in favor of it.
Hamas’ response to Abbas has been fragmented. The Nyetnik in Damascus, Khaled Meshal says ‘nyet’ in no uncertain terms:
“He who wants to know the popular will should refer to what this will determined four months ago in legislative elections.”
Hamas’ hardline foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar, also says ‘nyet:’
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, during a visit to China, dismissed the plan as “impractical.”
Interestingly, Prime Minister Ismail Haniye doesn’t exactly say ‘nyet:’
Haniyeh said that the document must be studied and refined before it could gain the approval of the Palestinians.
But there isn’t much time to study because Abbas has given them ten days to accept it, a period which ends early this coming week.
With Islamic Jihad breaking ranks with Hamas to endorse the Prisoner’s Plan, and now Hamas’ would-be Arab allies endorsing it, a Hamas cave seems all but inevitable. The alternative would be for Hamas to cling to its current ‘nyet’ allowing Abbas and Palestinian public opinion to render it irrelevant. So far, Hamas has shown itself too politically adept to allow this to happen. That’s why I cling to the hope that in the battle of wills between them and Abbas, they will blink first. They may have no choice.